Some bands are meant for Friday night. Every night is Friday night for The Empty Pockets from Chicago, Illinois. Their high energy fun music just doesn’t seem to fit on a weekday. Nevertheless the band hit the best venue Northwest Missouri on a Thursday night to see if they could bring the Friday night vibe on a school night.
It is always exciting when out-of-towners swing through St. Joseph. The local music (even though it is quite good right now) can become stale and it is refreshing to hear a new voice and sound roll through. The Empty Pockets brought a good time energy that isn’t all that common and would make for a great Thursday night experiment.
The band is very pop-rock radio friendly. Their vocals are right on top of the music and easy to hear (which is nice for a change.) They have a very listener friendly sound with a female vocalist in Erika Brett paired with most-of-the-time lead singer Joshua Solomon. The bass player would take the lead on the occasional song (usually a old standard cover song) but would deliver a booming voice to do the songs justice. Brett’s lead vocals were added to the band after their formation and it was very apparent live which songs where written after her addition.
Erika Brett is the classic story of a singer who learned how to sing then joined a band. It is always a bit of a fresh sound when this happens, this sequence of events usually avoids a vocalist just trying to shout over the band. The hip-slapping Brett could belt out great vocals but it was still obvious that the driving force of the band was Joshua Solomon on vocals and lead guitar. He has the voice of a less-whiney Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty and writes great little catchy pop songs. The music of The Empty Pockets has the vibe of The Barenaked Ladies. It is light, catchy and fun which is not an easy sound to pull off.
They would take the stage and blast into an energetic mix of mostly original songs and some carefully chosen covers to bring familiarity to the young band’s set. The most impressive cover delivered on the evening was an appropriate version of Etta James’ “At Last.” The band would also deliver standards like “Mustang Sally” and “Sweet Home Chicago” and make them much less their own than they did the James classic.
As far as the band’s strengths go, it is clearly their original songs. They have a stellar group of songs highlighted by the 98 degrees-referencing “Fall Right Now” and the strongest song of the evening in St. Joseph “All I Need.” They even displayed their soft-touch for music with the slowed down tune ” You’re The One.” The music of the band is very PG rated but is great for a good-time feeling night of music. The group’s influences are all over the map bluesy sounding songs during the second half of the set and many reggae sounding guitar songs filling the initial set. The talent of the band in undeniable, the solid drumming and bass works as the mortar for the guitar and vocals of the band, holding the whole thing together. Brett’s vocals are instantly noticeable and the songwriting and guitar playing of Solomon are both solid. The band has potential to do a lot, it will be interesting to see how far they go.